“The blue of heaven is larger than the darkness of the clouds.” Anon
After living in the little coffee village of Neves for a while I came to know that the largest religious draw in that whole area was the Spiritist Center. The owner of an auto repair shop where I had my old van fixed repeatedly counselled me to attend their séances. He told me how his dad had been very seriously ill, had attended the Center of which he was a part, and was healed as a result. I had no doubt that it really happened but I might have a different explanation for that miracle than the one the son offered.
I learned a good deal about this brand of Spiritism through my mechanic friend. That Center even had a pharmacy in the village and though it filled regular prescriptions by the local doctor, yet it was explained to me that the spirits often spoke to the mediums giving them detailed instructions as to the medicines to buy at this pharmacy and how they should be taken. At this point I should explain that any person off the street could buy medications at a pharmacy if they know exactly what they wanted. But the pharmacist could not prescribe for anyone.
This particular brand of Spiritism that I’ve described in Brazil is not the one we might encounter here in Canada—that one would be the Allan Kardek Spiritism. Then there is another very popular Spiritism called Umbanda that combines African religions, Brazilian Indian cultures and Catholicism. That movement began among the Afro-Brazilian population in Rio de Janeiro and spread quickly even to Brazil’s neighbours. The only Spiritism I knew of in Neves was Racionalismo Cristao and it had a large following. On any night with a séance the yard at the Center would be crowded with horses and the streets nearby lined with cars.
Nabor was one of the young men in the village that left Racionalismo Cristao and professed faith in Jesus at our church planting project. We occasionally discussed his previous faith and one day he invited me to go with him to a séance. I accepted—they say “ curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction resurrected it.” Some would declare that going to such a séance would do me serious damage but I would still just smile and say, “It didn’t affect me, didn’t affect me, affect me, affect me.” Anyway, whatever you think about how that séance affected me–I went one night.
The hall there would hold a couple of hundred people or perhaps more and was moderately well lit. A raised platform from the far wall extended about half way across the hall and was wide enough to accommodate a long table with chairs around it. The rest of the hall was filled with chairs and it was there that Nabor and I sat. There was a small light left lit on the far wall above the table when the place went dark. Then a number of people gathered at the table and everyone began to repeat a particular mantra—“Grande foco, vida da universo, vibracao dos nossos pensamentos…” and on and on. I used to be able to repeat all of that invocation and I suppose could look it up—but why?
It was not long into the meeting when I was invited to sit in one of the chairs at the table. I accepted and a person known as a medium began to tell of this stranger among them who had travelled the whole world looking for peace and was now seated at their table where revelations occurred. Of course everyone in the village of Neves knew about the strange Canadian missionaries who were there preaching the Christian faith. Then someone in the almost total darkness walked behind us at the table and squeezed all of the shoulders including mine. That was a bit startling, a bit eerie. I began to understand the individuals at the table were the seekers, other than of course the mediums. The mediums continued telling about the varied needs, illnesses and troubles of the other seekers, most often pointing out the cure or remedy.
So what do I make of this brand of Spiritism when those who were part of this movement declared that miracles occurred. Mostly I think I would believe what they said. Of course there are some good things that might happen just through positive thinking. Some other instances of what might be called miracles could happen because of the kindly support and fellowship of that large Spiritist group. Then I must admit that there well might be some real miracles—but I should explain what I mean before you run off to some Spiritist séance.
I quote from statements I wrote long years ago. “The fact is that Satan will do little favours so that we will turn our worship of God to lesser things where he (Satan) has some power. (He) is willing to cure the little vices and sins of the flesh—if he can trade with us for the great one.” The great one of course is worshipping anything that is first place in our lives instead of the Eternal Father.
In any case, I believe it is true that the blue of the sky is greater than the darkness of any cloud.